We Need To Recycle Better; Start By Following BPU’s New Guidelines

Recycling programs in many cities throughout the United States — Jamestown included — began their recycling programs with pretty stringent systems.

Residents would sort their cans and bottles, paper, plastic and metal. Over time, some cities went to a single stream recycling system in which anything to be recycled went into one bin while refuse went into the trash bin to go to a landfill. Some cities like Jamestown have a dual stream recycling program where some items, like cans and plastic or carboard and paper, are recycled together.

Such systems are much more convenient than separating everything.

Convenience was one of the major complaints last week when the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities announced it is changing the city’s recycling program into a true multi-stream system. Starting in September, BPU customers will no longer be able to combine paper and cardboard and plastic and metal into one recycling bin. Everything must be separated, with the BPU recycling calendar being expanded each month so that cans, glass, paper, cardboard and plastic will be collected only one time each month.

The BPU’s system is much less convenient than what we’re used to. It is also necessary.

China’s decision to only accept recycling it considers 99.5 percent pure is a standard that can’t be attained in the United States with single stream and dual stream recycling systems that have allowed recycled items to be mixed together. That decision has created a glut of recyclables on the market and an increasing cost to process the materials.

Our recycling isn’t clean. Glass jars aren’t clean enough to be recycled properly. Grease-stained pizza boxes or boxes from children’s toys with plastic still attached to them can’t be recycled either. Such contamination instantly transforms potentially marketable materials into garbage for the landfill — a problem considering there has been opposition locally to expanding the Chautauqua County Landfill or allowing a landfill in the town of Carroll to operate.

We can do our part pretty easily. Properly rinse cans, plastic and glass jars. Make sure paper is properly separated from cardboard and that cardboard doesn’t have other things attached to it.

Recycling programs seem to be reaching a tipping point. If we can’t recycle properly and keep the recycling stream free of unusable material, the system may simply quit working. The problem is bigger than just Jamestown, but we can do our part by following the BPU’s new recycling policy while forces bigger than we are figure out the rest.